Motorists neglect tyre safety to save money

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Recent figures released by the AA show that last year, out of 3.4 million call-outs attended by the recovery service, the second most common reason was torn or punctured tyres.

In 2011, more than 363,000 call-outs were made, up 8% on the previous year. It is worried that the stark rise in figures is due to motorists trying to save every penny while juggling the spiralling costs of keeping a car on the road.

However, drivers could well be risking their safety every time they get behind the wheel.

Keith Miller, AA patrol of the year, said: "Increasingly we're seeing cars with barely any tread on the tyres. As well as being illegal and potentially dangerous, the tyre is much more likely to puncture. Members tell us that they have put off replacing them due to money worries."

According to leading tyre retailers, motorists are trying to look for the biggest bargains and take more time to hunt out cheaper rubber.

Michael Welch, Managing Director of Blackcircles.com, said: "The feedback we are receiving from our garages is that they are seeing tyres with far greater evidence of wear, indicating that people are leaving it longer than normal before changing their tyres."

Online tyre shop etyres has seen a 6% rise in year-on-year sales, and the company believes it is due to the cheaper deals it can offer through mobile fitting services, dodging the large overheads of depots.

Oliver Hall, operations manager for etyres, said: "Consumers are a lot more savvy today. Whether they are comparing supermarket prices for the weekly shop or buying a pair of tyres for their car, more and more are researching the best deals.

"People are turning to the internet for bargains on their new tyres instead of just driving in to the nearest tyre depot and handing over their credit card without questioning the cost."

Worn tyres can pose serious safety risks as stopping distances can often double on bald tyres in bad road conditions. The risk of a blowout is also much higher, especially if white cords are showing through the sidewalls or tread.

"Checking your tyre safety once a fortnight should be part of an owner's on-going car care," added Micheal Welch.

"A key element of this should be ensuring all tyres meet the legal limit for tread depth which is 1.6mm. There is a simple test for this using a 20 pence piece – place the 20p in-between the main grooves of the tyre and if you can see the outer band of the coin it is time to get your tyres checked."

Ensuring tyre safety is the responsibility of the motorist and it is illegal to use tyres below the minimum 1.6mm tread depth. You can also be fined up to £2,500 per tyre if they are illegal.

Research by Tyresafe found that in 2010, there were nearly 10,500 convictions for defective tyres in England and Wales, up 1,000 from the previous year.